TALK about putting your money where your mouth is. The news that JK Rowling has established a women-only centre for survivors of sexual violence should be music to the ears of both her supporters and her detractors. Who wouldn’t welcome additional support for women who have endured these horrific experiences? God knows it’s needed.

Beira’s Place in Edinburgh will offer free counselling from an all-female team of professional staff. It won’t be a charity – instead it will be privately funded by the Harry Potter author, who in the past has written about her own experience of being sexually assaulted.

The news of the service’s launch will come as no surprise to anyone in Scotland who has been paying attention to the discussion around women-only spaces in general and support services in particular. Neither should it be very surprising that it will operate independently, in accordance with single-sex exemptions permitted by the 2010 Equality Act but beyond the jurisdiction of any charity regulator or umbrella organisation.

While there are autonomous women’s aid and rape crisis groups across Scotland, each one built up from scratch, the umbrella bodies Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland proudly endorse what they would call “trans-inclusive” policies – a framing that positions those seeking female-only services as “trans-exclusionary” (from which follows the term of abuse “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”, or terf).

Those who frame actions like Rowling’s as “anti-trans” reveal much about themselves – not least that when they refer to “trans” they are almost always centring the interests of males.

READ MORE: JK Rowling opens 'women-only' sex abuse survivors centre

There are, as most people are now aware, sharply rising numbers of young women identifying as trans, and in the current climate they stand little chance of receiving the therapeutic help they need. Asking probing questions of them is increasingly being framed as an attempt at “conversion therapy”. Will Beira’s Place exclude such women? I highly doubt it.

Speaking to the former Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore, Rowling explained that as a young woman she assumed the march of women’s rights was unstoppable. “By the time I’m my mother’s age, I thought, my daughters will have it so much easier. But now I think we’ve gone backwards. I think we’re living through a nightmare.” 

A young woman recently posted a nine-second TikTok referencing an exchange she had with her therapist, adding the necessary caveat that “there’s a lot of nuance here trust me she’s not transphobic” and reiterating in the comments that in any other context this would be “soooo” out of line. The therapist’s response to her saying that she doesn’t really identify as a girl? “Of course not – it’s a defence mechanism. Being a girl hasn’t been safe for you.” The final three seconds are a double-take. Could this analysis be … spot on?

The comments in response are revealing: “Had a questioning period where I couldn’t figure out if I was trans or just couldn’t stand how women have to live,” said one poster. “Saaaaaame sometimes I’m like am I man or do I just not want to be perceived as a woman in our misogynistic society?” said another. “Yeah same. My clause is that I only want ppl to be able to see me as a woman if I know that they have also viewed me as a person first,” wrote a third. Oh, to be able to reach out to these thoughtful, reflective young women and tell them yes, you’ve nailed it: it is society that needs to change, not you.

Ask yourself where those dealing with the fallout from unsafe girlhoods would find the most effective help – in an all-female therapeutic environment, or at Edinburgh Rape Crisis under the leadership of Mridul Wadhwa, who has warned that anyone who expresses “unacceptable beliefs that are discriminatory in nature” will be “challenged on their prejudices” as part of their journey of recovery, and required to “reframe [their] relationship with prejudice.”

The comments on TikTok show many trans-identified young girls are indeed “reframing” their trauma with the right kind of therapy, but they have been so thoroughly indoctrinated they fear being branded terfs for even talking about it.

Reading about Wadhwa’s approach ultimately led to Rowling’s “lightbulb moment”, and the birth of Beira’s Place. She will doubtless be well prepared for any backlash that may result, as every feminist in the world has heard the cautionary tale of Vancouver Rape Relief in Canada. As a result of standing firm on its female-only policy, that organisation was stripped of local council funding and, horrifyingly, had messages such as “Kill TERFs” and “F*** TERFs” scrawled on one of its buildings, and animal corpses nailed to its door and pushed through its letterbox.

Let’s hope such appalling scenes could never be repeated here in Scotland, and that outraged activists understand just how bad it would look. You can bet Rowling can afford a pretty nifty CCTV system.